Saturday, December 31, 2016

Strategy Over the Fake News Commission/Agency?

I sat in Helsinki one night this week, and was watching what few TV options existed at the hotel.....of which only one German network was offered....ZDF (Channel Two).

The late news came one night and they did a five-minute report over a topic which usually gets the state-TV/public-TV journalists all hyped up....the use of 'luegenpresse' (lying press).  It was a term used often in the period of the early 1900s to describe Germany's newspapers who were hyping up a positive theme for the Kaiser's government. It virtually ended as a phrase in 1919 as the war concluded and the government shifted.  Around 2013, the phrase luegenpress came back.  I know....it's hard to imagine a mostly dead German term coming back and the word-PhD guys probably freaked out when they noticed it used almost daily.

So, in this ZDF report.....they kinda laid out what I think will be one of the chief strategies with the new fake news agency/commission in Germany.  If the public-TV crowd notices people attaching their stories on Facebook or Twitter, with the term 'luegenpresse', they will call up the fake news agency/commission.....ask for a review....have their news noted as "true" (not fake), and then have Facebook remove all mentions of luegenpresse.  Dozens, hundreds, thousands of Facebook users to be targeted?  Yeah, probably.  It's hard to say how many people in German use the phrase daily.  In 2014, it was used a lot.  In 2016, the public-TV crowd really toned down their hype for immigration and asylum a lot (you can compare news of 2014 to 2016 and it's like they cut 90-percent of their hype out).

What will happen if this strategy is used.....targeting the luegenpresse comments in German society?

I would suggest three things:

1.  Facebook and Twitter will become useless tools of the politically disenchanted, and those folks will move on.  Other platforms will exist....well beyond the hand or outreach of this commission or the German government.  Whether the general public starts to laugh over the censorship trend....will be a curious thing to observe.  With a potential 500,000 Euro fine hanging over Facebook....I doubt that their business model ever envisioned a threat like that and the way ahead for German users is a question mark.

2.  Personally, I consider the phrase luegenpresse outdated and doesn't fit the current circumstance.  Biased press would be more appropriate. Vorgespannten presse would be the better term to use (in German).  The commission/agency being built....will only have the mission of fake news given....not biased news (something you tend to notice rather quickly).  Germans might be smart enough to figure this out and simply drop luegenpresse and go with Vorgespanntenpresse instead.  Or if they wanted to continue with use of social media....just invent new words (LP, luesse, etc) to hang some criticism over the public news journalists.  Remember, this is the society who laughed over the creation of 'Pussy Riot' as a comical show.  Some Germans might even go and use the same phrasing for presse.

3.  Finally, I come to this odd feeling that in a politically charged up year that might occur in Germany....if I were a journalist....the last thing I'd want to do is become a magnet for anger, frustration and negativity by a fair number of the public.  Some people consider state-run/public-TV in Germany to be untouchable in terms of blocking or forcing upon change.  It would take some effort but you could force them to consolidate into one single network (instead of the ZDF/ARD split of today), and even force a lower TV tax which would result in lesser funds.  Normally, that would never happen, but if you draw a lot of attention to your operation and make half of the public angry enough....virtually anything is possible.

The other odd part to this whole story is that you aren't really working toward controlling the news or themes for 2017. You have various state elections which will occur in 2018 and 2019.  You also have neighbors around Germany who will be voting right-wing for future governments.  And in 2019, you have the next EU election, which could result in 50-percent of the EU core being right-wing.  Go imagine all the stupid regulations that they could write.....to include a TV-tax limit related to your GDP and forcing the German TV tax to drop by 10-to-20 percent.  For all the comical regulations that came with the EU and tea-pot electrical limits.....it wouldn't take more than five lines to make the state-TV folks rather nervous.

2016 was a rather odd political year in the US.....but I would suggest that 2017 will be such a year in Germany, and some folks who typically don't get hyped up....will be hyped up.  And the news system which used to be able to control the message and keep Germans focused on two or three big topics?  I think they've played out the clock and now find that a fair segment of society have moved on.

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